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Intellectual Property Law and the Ethics of Imitation in Guatemala


This article examines the cultural and moral context of trademark piracy in Guatemala. In particular, I analyze what accusations of envy among small-scale Maya garment manufacturers who participate in trademark piracy reveal about two aspects of the social field: first, the changing economic and cultural conditions following waves of neoliberal reform including the criminalization of piracy; and, second, the nonlinear reproduction of forms of moral and legal reckoning at the margins of the global economy. I examine how practices of copying and imitation among manufacturers and competitive behavior more generally are evaluated locally in light of kin relations that promote the sharing of knowledge and resources within a somewhat loose property regime and given ideologies of race and nation that encourage class-based solidarity among Maya people. I find that the normative models and business practices evident among these manufacturers parochialize official portraits of progress, business ethics, and development promoted in neoliberal policy agendas and international law.